Traditional recipes

Measuring the Unhealthy Side of Food Porn

Measuring the Unhealthy Side of Food Porn

This is a screenshot showing some of the constantly-updating statistics on Food Porn Index.

According to the Food Porn Index, 78 percent of the images found on social media with the hastag #foodporn are of unhealthy foods. The Food Porn Index is a new website from Bolthouse Farms that tracks what kind of food we are sharing on social media and asks the question, “Why should junk food get all the glory?”

We know, we know, it’s a lot more tempting to tweet a photo of a cheesy pizza or gooey ice cream sundae than it is to brag about carrots on social media. But the choices we make on Instagram may be reflecting our eating habits more than previously thought.

“Through our presence in social channels, it became startlingly apparent that fruits & veggies are severely under-represented within ‘food porn,” said Bolthouse Farms’ vice president of strategic marketing Suzanne Ginestro.“What people tweet about and post is a reflection of how we behave in the offline world, and we want to change those habits.”

The site just launched this week, and it has been tallying the amount of Brussels sprouts hashtags as compared with pie hashtags (FYI: it’s 301,316 for Brussels sprouts versus more than 12.7 million pies) on a daily basis. So will the Food Porn Index make a difference?

“Awareness of the imbalance is the first step to making change and that’s exactly what we’re determined to do,” Ginestro answered.


Emulsifiers: Friend or foe?

Did you know, when we make a vinaigrette using a whisk to add the oil to the vinegar, we’re emulsifying the two liquids? Despite being a wonderful combo, this emulsion is not stable. The oil and vinegar chemically repel each other and will separate again if we leave them for long enough. Which is why we aim to make vinaigrette not too long before serving it.

In a homemade mayonnaise, the emulsion is more stable as the lecithin from the egg yolk acts as an emulsifier to help suspend the vegetable oil and the lemon juice.

Other common ingredients that can act as emulsifiers in the kitchen include tomato paste, mustard powder and miso.

Emulsifiers are used extensively in food manufacturing. Think of an emulsifier as a ‘hand-holder’ between the oil and water mix. Chemically, an emulsifier has one end compatible with oil and the other compatible with water, so it can link with both. This makes it easier to prepare an emulsion. Some emulsifiers will also stabilise, so the emulsion doesn’t separate over time. In some foods, you’ll see stabilisers added as well in order to maintain the emulsion.

Many common manufactured foods contain emulsifiers. They not only stabilise an oil-water blend but also affect the texture of our foods. In ice cream, for example, emulsifiers enhance the smooth creamy texture as well as slowing down the melting process.


An easy way to portion your olive oil

One of my favorite tricks I've learned from registered dietitians when it comes to cooking with olive oil is using a spray bottle instead. Spraying your vegetables or meats with olive oil can easily control the amount of oil you use, and will significantly cut the number of calories.

Spray olive oil bottles are easy to buy at the grocery store, but if you're one who likes to reduce the amount of waste you use in the kitchen, a reusable spray oil bottle may be helpful to have on hand.

Now some recipes may tell you to add olive oil to a pan, and that's okay! Instead of just pouring the oil in, grab your measuring spoons and portion out the amount of olive oil you use. That way you can still enjoy your delicious meal without all of those sneakily added calories!


Double Down by the Numbers: Unhealthiest Sandwich Ever?

KFC&rsquos Double Down Sandwich, an in-your-face collection of bacon, cheese and something called Colonel&rsquos Sauce betwixt two fried chicken &ldquobuns&rdquo, is making waves for its unapologetic gluttony, compelling reviews out of everyone from the New York Times&rsquos Sam Sifton to the Onion&rsquos Nathan Rabin. But is it really the caloric monstrosity that it appears?

To get this out of the way: I haven&rsquot eaten a Double Down. I probably will. And I&rsquoll probably like it. But there are so many much tastier ways to clog your arteries here in New York that it&rsquos not high on the priority list.

So instead, let&rsquos start with the Double Down&rsquos calorie count: 540 calories for the crispy &ldquoOriginal Recipe&rdquo version and 460 for a grilled variant. Those seem like big numbers, but by fast food standards, they&rsquore pretty mild: the Burger King Chicken Tendercrisp weighs in at 800 calories, for instance, and Jack-in-the-Box&rsquos Ranch Chicken Club will set you back 700. Calorie counts for burgers are even higher: 1,320 for a Hardee&rsquos Monster Thickburger, and 1,350 for a Wendy&rsquos Triple Baconator. Even the humble Big Mac, a lightweight by modern standards, contains 540 calories, exactly the same number as the Double Down.

But calorie counts are overrated. We all need to eat, to the tune of about 2,000 calories per day for a healthy adult. It&rsquos not the calories so much as what you do with them. Are you getting a lot of fat, cholesterol, and sodium (bad)? Or lots of fiber and vitamins instead?

Here, the Double Down&rsquos credentials are more impressive. Those 540 calories contain 145 milligrams of cholesterol (more than twice that of the Big Mac and about half of the USDA&rsquos daily allowance) &mdash along with 1,380 milligrams of sodium (the USDA recommends no more than 2,400 per day) and 32 grams of fat (65 will keep you slim, says the government). So, for getting only about one-quarter of the calories that you need in a day, you&rsquore exhausting about half your budget of &ldquobad stuff&rdquo.

We can, of course, be a bit more exacting about this. I&rsquove created an index based on the amount of fat, sodium and cholesterol that the Double Down and a variety of comparable sandwiches contain as a portion of the USDA daily allowance. (In the fat category, saturated fats are counted double and trans-fats are counted triple.) The index is scaled such that the Original Recipe version of the sandwich receives a score of 1.00, a measure of gluttony that will hereafter be known as The Double Down (DD).**

By this measure, the Double Down is indeed quite unhealthy, but some other sandwiches are just as bad. The Burger King Chicken Tendercrisp (1.00 DDs), which has less cholesterol but more fat and sodium, is comparably unhealthy to the Double Down on balance. The chicken ranch sandwiches from Sonic (0.94 DDs) and Jack-in-the-Box (0.98 DDs) are close. And surprisingly, some sandwiches from &ldquofast casual&rdquo restaurants that have a reputation for healthy food do even worse. Panera&rsquos Chipotle Chicken checks in at 1.49 DD&rsquos &mdash it has almost 50 percent more bad stuff than the Double Down &mdash and Boston Market&rsquos Chicken Carver at 1.14. So do some products that stretch the definition of &ldquosandwich&rdquo. A chicken burrito from Chipotle with rice, black beans, cheese and corn salsa will cost you 1.16 Double Downs: load it up with sour cream, guacamole, and picante salsa as well and you&rsquore up to 1.69. A pack of five McDonald&rsquos Chicken Selects with a side of ranch sauce is worth 1.23 Double Downs.

But it&rsquos the burgers that dominate this category, with Wendy&rsquos Triple Baconator (2.45 DDs) and Hardee&rsquos Moster Thickburger (2.24 DDs) in a league of their own and more than twice as bad-for-you as the Double Down. Even an ordinary Whopper with Cheese (1.10 DDs) is slightly worse than the Double Down.

All of those products, however, contain more &mdash often substantially more &mdash calories than does the Double Down. They have lots (and lots and lots) of bad stuff, but some good stuff like protein, iron and fiber as well. Their calories aren&rsquot quite so empty, and they damned well ought to leave you full.

So suppose instead that we re-calibrate our metric by dividing by the number of calories that each sandwich contains. This alternate measure, which we&rsquoll call Double Downs per Calorie (DDPC), gets at the idea of how bad each product is for you on a bite-by-bite basis.

And here, things don&rsquot look very good at all for the Double Down, since for all that crap you&rsquore taking in, you&rsquore only getting about one-quarter of the calories that you need. On this basis, not only is the Double Down worse for you than any of the chicken products (Chick-Fil-A&rsquos Chargrilled Chicken Club, at 0.91 DDPCs, is the next-worst), but also all of the burgers as well &mdash even the Triple Baconator (0.98 DDPCs) and the infamous Thickburger (0.92 DDPCs). In fact, the only thing that beats than the Original Recipe Double Down is the supposedly healthier grilled Double Down (1.19 DDPCs), which is almost 20 percent worse for you than the signature version on a per-calorie basis.

Things would look even worse for the Double Down if we also punished it for its lack of fiber (the original recipe version has just 1 gram and the grilled version has none) and other nutrients. But fast food restaurants are inconsistent about publishing this information, so it&rsquos getting a break.

So, is the Double Down the most gluttonous fast food sandwich ever created? It depends on how you measure it. At the margins, consuming one Double Down almost certainly isn&rsquot as bad for you as a Triple Baconator, a Thickburger, or even a fully-loaded Chipotle burrito. But while those products should, in theory, fill you up for at least half the day, the Double Down might leave you hankering for seconds. It&rsquos a high bar to clear, but it&rsquos the closest thing to pure junk food of any &ldquosandwich&rdquo being marketed today.

** To calculate Double Downs for your own favorite sandwich, apply the following formula: divide the number of mg of cholesterol by 469, the number of mg of sodium by 3,754, the number of grams of total fat by 133, the number of grams of saturated fat also by 133, and the number of grams of trans-fat by 66. Then sum the result.

To calculate Double Downs per Calorie (DDPC), take the above result, divide by the number of calories, and multiply by 540.


The Two Types of Food Most Likely to Induce a 'Food Coma'

You know that drowsy feeling you get after a big meal, like you might just pass out right there at the table? Call it a “food coma” or, more fancily, “postprandial somnolence,” but whatever you prefer to label it, researchers have now confirmed that the phenomenon is real — and may have determined the foods most likely to bring it on.

Neurobiologists at Scripps Research Institute, in Florida, and several other institutions say their research on the behavior of fruit flies indicate a connection between eating and sleeping. The researchers, led by Keith R. Murphy, devised a system for measuring the impact of food on sleepiness and found that, after consuming a great deal, fruit flies conk out for about 20 to 40 minutes, depending on how much they’ve eaten, before returning to their typical wakeful state.

Delving into the neurons in the fruit flies’ brains, they found that salty and protein-rich foods were more likely to induce drowsiness, whereas sugar didn’t seem to have the same effect. The amount of food eaten and the timing of the meal also appeared to play a role. (Post-meal drowsiness was at a minimum around dusk.)

Future experiments are likely to look into the reasons for the link between eating and sleeping.

“In nature, sleep is likely a vulnerable state for animals. Thus, another challenge will be to uncover why post-meal sleep is important,” the authors wrote. “Does sleeping after a meal boost digestion? Or might it help animals to form memories about a food source, making it easier to find similar food in the future?”

Robert Huber, a neuroscientist at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University who was involved with the study, posited that it may be about how the body allocates its resources. “Clearly, protein is a very expensive commodity,” in nature, Huber told ScienceDaily. “If sleep increases your ability to resorb it, that would be a possible reason. And the same thing with salt.”

Regardless, “There’s clearly something very potent about sleep itself,” Huber said.

Given our own fondness for the snooze button, he probably doesn’t have to tell us that.


Is Vegetable Glycerin Safe?

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies vegetable glycerin or glycerol under the category of "generally recognized as safe." However, this doesn't mean it's free from controversy. In a December 2016 study in the _Environmental Science & Technology _journal, glycerol is noted as one of the ingredients in vaping liquid.

E-cigarettes vaporize a combination of propylene glycol and glycerol, which could be dangerous for the lungs. As the Mayo Clinic points out, there is no long-term safety data showing how inhaling vegetable glycerin affects lung tissue, and short-term data shows that it can be an irritant to airways.

Although the FDA notes that glycerin in food is safe, as vegetable glycerin is turned into glucose by the body and used for energy, this does not mean it is safe in vaping.

A September 2014 study published in Cosmetic Ingredient Review looked at the safety of glycerin in cosmetics. Examining multiple studies on animal and human subjects, the review panel saw low toxicity in oral and dermal uses, and observed that for the high frequency of glycerin use, there are few instances of people reporting toxicity, irritation or sensitivity.

When it comes to inhalation, the panel considered the exposure from aerosol hairsprays, deodorants, body and hand sprays, sunscreens and so forth. After considering data from two studies, it concluded there was little risk of respiratory effects at low levels.

Even though most evidence reflects the safety of glycerol, it is still a food additive and people might have their reservations — even the Food and Drug Administration acknowledges this.

However, the administration explains that just because something has an unfamiliar name, that doesn't necessarily make it harmful. Additives can improve safety, maintain freshness, improve nutritional value and improve taste. The FDA regulates these additives, such as glycerin, to ensure they are safe for consumption.


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Major Pitfalls of the Glyemic Index

I’m not a fan of the Glycemic Index. Like the misleading Nutrition Facts, the glycemic index drives me nuts for three main reasons:

1. It doesn’t take the nutritional value of the food into consideration. Just because a food has a low GI does not make it a nutrient-dense food! According to the Glycemic Index the following foods are equally healthy choices simply because they have similar GI ranks:

  • Pizza and plain unsweetened yogurt
  • White pasta and carrots
  • Bananas and potato chips
  • Watermelon and white bread
  • Baked Potato and glucose

2. Too complicated!! Doing calculations for everything you eat and memorizing food charts is NOT practical.

3. It doesn’t take into consideration that carbohydrates are often eaten in combination with other foods that contain fiber, protein and fat—–fiber, protein and fat all slow the conversion of carbohydrates to blood sugar and reduce the glycemic load of the entire meal

So Forget About the Glycemic Index!

If you insist on learning more about the glycemic index try this book. but understand the whole foods Clean Cuisine approach found here.


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Content
A lot of really delicious (if a bit unhealthy) recipes, ranging from succulent main courses to incredible desserts. Most of the recipes found in this book are long (some of the recipes can take as long as a whole day, others can be made in just under an hour), but very easy to follow - so even a person who is inept in the kitchen can make a top-class key lime pie without any trouble. The ingredients called for in most of the recipes are not overly exotic so the recipes are quite accessible to anyone with a well stocked pantry.

Physical Attributes
The book itself is very attractive - it is a large, rectangular, landscape book with a hardback cover and glossy pages that are a real pleasure to flick through. The pictures are all a good size and printed in high quality and full color, so you'll have a good idea as to what your finished result should look like. Keep in mind that the binding in the spine of the book seems so be ever so slightly fragile - that is not to say it will fall apart on you (I use my book regularly and have encountered no problems) but a little bit of care will go a long way in the upkeep of this book. It is also worth mentioning that the book (due to being a large hardback) is fairly heavy and may not sit too comfortably on a small wire kitchen book shelf.

The Downsides
I gave this book 4 out of 5 starts for the quality of its content and general presentation, but there are just one or two small gripes that meant I has to take a star off. First of all, whilst most of the font is standard and easy to read, the titles of the dishes and the first word of every paragraph is written in long, sloping jointed writing (as can be seen on the title of the book "Food Porn Daily"). Whilst this was not unbearable, it did mean that whenever I was cooking anything, I had to look very closely at the word, just to make sure I got the instructions right.

Another thing is that (being an American book) a lot of the ingredient measurements are given in "Cups" instead of "Grams and ounces" - in the average British kitchen, it is less likely to find a measuring jug for "Cups" that it is to find a kitchen scale to weigh out ingredients precisely, so this was a little frustrating for me.

Finally (and this is a small gripe) the way the book is ordered in by "Season". That is to say instead of having a chapter for "starters", then a chapter for "main courses", there is instead a chapter for "Winter", then "Spring" etc. This can make it quite difficult to quickly pick a course and start cooking right away, you need to carefully pick through each of the chapters to find just what you are looking for. Like I said, it is a small gripe.

Conclusion
Overall, this is a fun and easy to use book that delivers decadent re-imaginations of some classics as well as some new and inventive recipes that will have dinner guests coming back for more.


The unhealthy side of wearable fitness devices

P ossibly the worst chat-up line I've ever had the misfortunate of overhearing was when a man in a Brooklyn bar sidled up to a girl and complimented her on her Jawbone. "I've started to wear a Basis as well as a Jawbone," he sniffed, extending his wrist for inspection. "The Jawbone is stylish, sure, but the Basis is a more serious piece of hardware. I really like how its galvanic skin response sensor tracks my perspiration levels." The girl made a polite little noise then swiftly removed herself to the other end of the room.

There are a couple of things to be learned from this sad story. The first is that enthusing about how you like to quantify your sweat statistics is not a good way to get laid. Even in Brooklyn. The second is that the proliferation of wearable fitness devices such as Nike's Fuelband, Jawbone Up, and the Basis band, coupled with the increasing popularity of health and fitness apps, has pushed self-tracking from niche geek activity and into the mainstream.

A recent study by the Future Laboratory and Confused.com found that about 60% of 18- to 34-year-olds in the UK have used a self-quantifying app or service to monitor their fitness levels, mental health and sleep patterns. These figures are mirrored across the pond. According to a Pew report, 60% of US adults say they track their weight, diet or exercise routine. And these numbers are rising. Indeed, it's highly probable that you or someone you know will be have received or given some sort of wearable fitness product this Christmas season.

Evangelists of self-tracking technology proclaim that through data lies enlightenment. Measuring ourselves, they say, will help us understand ourselves. We will all end up several percentage points healthier and happier. However, I'm not sure this is right. While it is true that self-tracking can help push people into making positive lifestyles changes, it could also be argued that the growing popularity of this sort of technology is normalising neurotic behaviour.

When I was a teenager I went through a brief phase of compulsive self-quantification. It was called anorexia. I counted every calorie, weighed myself obsessively and exercised fanatically. For about a year my life was a running tally of energy-in and energy-out and I would diligently feed all these numbers into a sort of anorexia algorithm regularly adjusting different variables in order to maximise weight-loss efficiencies. The end result was that I weighed six stone and my hair fell out in clumps. I looked grim, but I did get a good grounding in data analytics.

This was all a long time ago and I'm now fully recovered. This is in no small part due to the fact that I actively avoid weighing myself and try not to count calories. It took me a long time to stop seeing food as a spreadsheet of numbers and start thinking about it as nutrition. It would have taken me even longer if the sort of self-tracking technology that is ubiquitous today was available when I was ill. Dr Kimberly Dennis, a psychiatrist who specialises in eating disorder treatment, estimates that about 75% of her young-adult patients use their phones in a way that enables their eating disorders. Apps that facilitate calorie-counting and food-logging are an anorexic's best friend and worst enemy. With society increasingly embracing a sort of "techorexia" that rewrites compulsive behaviour as healthy, it is becoming easier for people with serious eating disorders to pretend there's nothing wrong.

All of this is not to say that strapping on a Jawbone or monitoring your food intake and exercise with some sort of mobile app is inherently harmful. Indeed, for some people, this sort of self-tracking can be incredibly beneficial. I just worry that as our lives become more data-driven, we are becoming overly fixated on the value of the variables that we can measure. In our growing obsession with counting everything and anything, it is possible that we are losing track of what really counts.